Faro Airport Car Hire
Southern Portugal's Algarve region has so much to offer tourists, whether you want to soak up the sun on one of the golden sand beaches, surf the Atlantic rollers or party in one of the lively resorts. But to get a true feeling for the Algarve, hiring a car gives you the best opportunity to explore the amazing scenery with its historic towns, Moorish castles, national parks and rugged coastline.
At Faro Airport, the major car rental companies have service desks in the arrivals hall. The smaller and local companies share facilities in car park P4, a short walk from the terminal building.
To get the best price for car hire, and to ensure that you get the type of car you want, you should book in advance online. At peak times, the small class ‘A' cars and convertibles tend to get booked up quickly.
There are things to beware of when using comparison websites. What appears to be the cheapest options can have hidden charges, so you need to check the terms and conditions carefully. One of the most common additional costs is the "full to empty" fuel policy. You will be charged for the initial tank of fuel at a vastly inflated price and instructed to bring it back empty, which is nearly impossible to plan. When booking, on the website's fuel policy options, you can tick the "full to full" box. With that, you only pay for the fuel that you actually use.
Basic car hire generally only includes the minimum level of insurance cover. When you collect the car, the agent will try to sell you the full cover. You can usually choose this option at the time of booking for a much lower price. Alternatively, you can buy your own car rental insurance, either for a one-off hire or an annual policy if you rent frequently. A large deposit will be secured on your credit card but, in the event of anything going wrong, you can claim that back with any other costs.
When travelling around the Algarve, at some point you will probably use the A22 motorway which has an automated toll collection system using number plate recognition. Some rental companies provide you with a pre-paid transponder which takes the toll from your credit card. Others wait until notified of the tolls and take it from your credit card after the rental has finished, along with an administration fee. When you collect your hire car, you need to check how the tolls are collected to avoid any surprises.
At the rental desk, you will need your rental voucher, a credit card in the drivers' name, your passport and driving licence. For UK drivers, since the paper counterpart licence was abolished, you might be asked for a code with which your driving record can be checked. For full details on how to obtain the code, visit the UK government website here.
Before Setting Off
When you eventually get your shiny new hire car, you will just want to get on the road. But, unless you have full insurance cover, you need to make a note of any damage to the bodywork, wheels, lights, glass and the interior. Take photos of every scratch, dent or stain, no matter how small. You will be glad you took the time when you return the car and you can prove that any "new damage" was already there.
Take a little extra time to familiarise yourself with the controls and set the mirrors and seat for your comfort. When you drive, take your time, especially if you're not used to driving on the right.
Sights of the Algarve
As an alternative to the tourist beaches of the southern resorts, the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vincentina has vast unspoilt beaches, rugged sea cliffs pounded by the Atlantic Ocean, and walking trails snaking through the wild scenery.
Mainland Europe's most south-western community is Sagres, the least developed coastal resort in the Algarve. Renowned among surfers, this laid-back town has plenty to offer the casual visitor.
Lagos, as well as being a lively and historic resort town, also has nearby stunning beaches and majestic cliffs with caves and fabulous rock formations making for a great day out. In complete contrast to the coastal areas, the mountains of the Serra de Monchique offer superb scenery with wooded slopes, meadows full of flowers, hilltop villages and panoramic viewpoints.
In the far east of the Algarve, on the Guadiana River, which forms the border between Portugal and Spain, lies the wonderfully atmospheric village of Alcoutim. It is worth a visit just for the drive along the banks of the river; the village's winding streets and castle walls transport you to another time. Also, you can take a ferry across to the Spanish side and have a go on the world's only cross-border zip line!